# [OS X TeX] Very good introduction IMHO

Bruno Voisin bvoisin at mac.com
Thu May 6 02:43:24 EDT 2004

Hello,

Given I wholeheartedly agree with the request "Can we please let [the]
thread ["TeX is not for the faint of heart"] die?", I am posting this
under a new subject.

I am just willing to emphasize how good is IMHO the introductory text
proposed by Rebecca Weber (quoted below). It would be a pity to let it
go unnoticed among the deluge of mails from the above thread. I wish I
had such an introduction when I discovered TeX the hard way, with only
a background in MacWrite II and Expressionist, a box containing the
Textures floppies, a copy of the TeXbook, no internet connection and
nobody to get help from.

Bruno Voisin

Le 5 mai 04, à 18:15, Rebecca Weber a écrit :

> A note on what's below: words which are preceded and followed by
> underscores are meant to be underlined or italicized as vocabulary
> terms.  Everything else is meant to be read verbatim.  It includes
> html commands, so if your mail reader is html-enabled you might have
> some confusion.  The three major lacks in this explanation are a list
> of reference books, a description of where you can go to get programs,
> and some small, non-comprehensive sample files (all of which exist
> elsewhere and could easily be incorporated).  It might also benefit
> from a glossary (which could include terms not used in the
> explanation, like most of those in Mahakk's list).
> Just my two cents,
> Rebecca
> _________________
>
> What is TeX?
> TeX (here used as a catch-all term for all the various kinds of TeX,
> such as LaTeX) is a _markup_language_, a system of typesetting where
> you write plain unformatted text (as you might in TextEdit or
> Notepad), and that is turned into pretty formatted text (as you might
> see in Word, only prettier) by a _compiler_.  That is, instead of
> italicized, you type a command that will be interpreted by the
> compiler as "put this text into italics".  Another markup language you
> might be familiar with is html; if not, you can see examples by
> opening a webpage and selecting "view source" from one of the menus in
> your browser (Netscape, IE, Safari, etc.).  Choose a plain page
> (without a lot of graphics, forms, or frames) and compare what you see
> in the original browser to what you see in the source window -- the
> source file has a lot of text that does not appear in the webpage.
> The source file has been _rendered_ into the webpage image, using the
> information from the extra text, or _commands_.  In TeX, we speak of a
> text file being _compiled_, turned into a pdf, dvi, or ps file.  The
> first kind you're probably familiar with from web browsing; the other
> two are just different formats which we can get into later.
>
> Now some examples, comparing to html:
> * To begin and end a webpage, you use the commands <html> and </html>.
>  To begin and end a TeX document, you use \begin{document} and
> \end{document}.  TeX has more options than html, though, so you will
> also have to include some information before the \begin{document} to
> tell the program which options you're exercising.  In particular, you
> must include the command \documentclass{classname}, where classname is
> replaced by the kind of document you want to make: article, book,
> letter,... the list goes on and is added to regularly.
> * To italicize in html, you enclose the text in <em> and </em>, as so:
> <em>this text is italicized</em>.  In Tex, it's a single command with
> the italicized text enclosed in curly braces: \emph{this text is
> italicized}.
> * To center in html, you enclose the text in <center> and </center>.
> In TeX, these change to \begin{center} and \end{center}.
>
> If you've looked at some TeX files, your next question might be
> "what's with all the dollar signs?"  Some commands in TeX only work in
> _math_mode_, and you tell the program you're entering or leaving math
> mode via a dollar sign.  This gives TeX the ability to double up on
> commands - to give one command two meanings, depending on whether it's
> in math mode or not.  An example is the dash: out of math mode, that
> is, simply -, it is a short dash.  Inside math mode, $-$, it is a
> minus sign and so is longer.
>
> That brings us to one other point: some symbols are used specially,
> like \ and $, and so there are different commands that produce that > symbol on the page. If you type a single \, TeX expects the next > thing it reads to be a command. If you want a backslash to appear on > the page, that next command should be \ again: \\ will print a > backslash. To get other special characters, you also precede them > with a backslash, as in \$ for a dollar sign.
>
> The best way to learn TeX in the beginning is by looking at other
> people's files (as is also true for html and most programming
> languages).  Once the syntax (way of writing it) starts to make more
> intuitive sense to you, there are a number of excellent reference
> books from which to learn more commands.  <insert list of books here>
>
> How do I get it?
> To use TeX, you need a "front end" and a "back end" (or "foundation").
>  The front end is the editor and viewer: where you type your text and
> where you view the compiled result.  The back end is the program that
> does the compilation along with all the information it uses to do so.
> These pieces are all put together for html in the form of web browsers
> (well, those with built-in web design programs, like Netscape
> install them separately.  <insert instructions for installation here -
> I'm biased toward iInstaller/TeXShop, which was very easy to install
> and use; mention could also be made of WinEdt/MikTex for any Windows
> users who might happen by>
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